QUByte Interactive and PIKO Interactive are back with another collection of classic retro games for us to rediscover on modern consoles. We recently checked out their Jim Power & Zero Tolerance releases - you can read what we thought about them HERE & HERE. This time it's a collection focusing on a lesser known vertical-scrolling shoot' em up - Thunderbolt. Does this scratch my shmup itch? or is it better off being forgotten in time?
The collection contains two games. The original 8-bit Thunderbolt (named Thunderbolt Fighting Plane) that was released in 1995 exclusively in the East on the NES (Famicon) and the 16-bit Thunderbolt II which was also released in 1995 on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). Fun fact, both of these games were then released onto the Mega Drive in the west for the first time in 2019 when PIKO gained the rights.
The games are the standard shoot-em up fare. Your goal is simple: destroy all the enemies that will come until you reach the final boss of the stage, make it easier and faster as you collect items and power-ups to enhance your health bar, increase your speed and upgrade or acquire new weapons. You’ll lead humanity to survival.
The 8-bit Thunderbolt is very basic. The graphics aren't great and the controls are clunky. This is pretty much down to the NES it was made for but its definitely the harder of the two games. It's unforgiving and at times controller throw worthy. It also only has 3 stages to play through. Luckily the 16-bit Thunderbolt II is a big improvement. It looks better, feels better to play and is much smoother. It's still a difficult game but compared to the original its a much more enjoyable experience. You also have a bomb attack at your disposal as well as the standard shooting attack and there are now double the amount of stages to play through. It is definitely A game I would go back to and play again compared to the original.
As with other QUByte Classic releases there are a variety of QOL improvements included. There are 4 different screen filters and 3 different display options (resolutions) so you can make the game look exactly how you like it (especially if you love a good old CRT display), each game has an official English localization, save states so you don't have to restart on every playthrough and also controller remapping - so you can make your button layout just how you like it. Unfortunately there aren't any unlockable extras/galleries etc that you can find in other retro re-releases.
Achievement hunters will be pleased to know the achievements found in the game are pretty straight forward. They are all linked to stage progression, weapon upgrading and high scores. Whilst there aren't any hidden achievements and the criteria to complete are pretty straightforward, you may struggle without using the save states functions due to the overall difficulty of both games.
Overall this is a nice collection of a couple of retro shmup games that you probably have never heard of. It includes all of the quality of life improvements we have come to expect of in these QUByte Classics collections but the fact that only two games are included means you won't be getting as much bang for your buck. The games themselves are still fun to play, but they are pretty basic games compared to others in the genre. Whilst I personally love getting the chance to play lesser known retro games I probably would never get the chance to if it wasn't for releases like these, I fully expect that this release is definitely a much more niche release for fans and will probably only appear to fans of the shmup genre, but it's great that there's now a much easier way to own these games legally and on modern consoles.
QUByte Classics: Thunderbolt Collection was released onto the Xbox store on the 4th August 2022. The game is playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S and is priced at £6.69. You can grab the game HERE. A copy of the game was provided to us for this review. A big thanks for that.